Anna and the Swallow Man by Gavriel Savit
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
4.5 I had written a long review and my computer didn't save it. So this will be shorter. First of all, this is a literary novel. It is beautiful and deep and wandering and not at all a direct, plot-driven story. If you can make peace with that, you'll enjoy it much more. Secondly, my library had this in the MG section, marked Juvenile Fiction. It is not. This is grade 8 and up, certainly above age 12-- there are some things in here I wouldn't have chosen to share with my ten year old (we were listening to the audio version, so I couldn't skim ahead and see what was coming) and I'm very liberal about what I think kids can handle (ie-- a lot.) But though Anna is 7, the narrator is ominiscient and I think some might make the mistake as I did of thinking this was a MG book. It's YA, at the minimum, and I think many of the deeper themes and allegories will speak most profoundly to adults. School Library Journal recommends this book for ages 14 and up, and the publisher lists it as 12 and up, so please keep that in mind.
The writing is absolutely beautiful. The characters are interesting... I do think Anna forgot about her own father too quickly but other than that, I found her attachment to the Swallow Man to be a beautiful thing and when another man joins their travels, it creates a rich opportunity to talk about what way someone might choose to approach life. I am glad I listened to the book with my child. First because it was unexpectedly rough in a few places, so I was there to help her process some of the harder things, and secondly, we had many great discussions.
The audio narration was fantastic and probably helped us keep going through the whole book, which does indeed meander much like the rivers that the Swallow Man uses as a metaphor. But it's the kind of book that will stick with you, if you will stick with it to the end.
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